Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Contend for the faith

"The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever changing...
fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster...
your defences must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the Arts you seek to undo."

Severus Snape

Churches need external and internal defenses against heresies.

1. The external defense comes in the form of clearly worded confessional statements.

These statements need to be comprehensive enough to state the truth with clarity and to safeguard the truth against particular errors. They ought to be as concise as possible in order to serve as useful churchly documents, but not so brief that they fail to express the definite contours of a doctrine.

Those responsible for framing, explaining, and enforcing confessional statements must be aware that, in the history of the church, heresies have often been passed off as orthodox interpretations of biblical and creedal words and phrases.

This is one reason why confessional statements have become more and more elaborate. Time and again it has been necessary to show the clear demarcation between truth and error, or, for this is what it has amounted to, between truth and something that appears to be the truth.

2. The internal defense comes in the form of a Spirit-wrought satisfaction with the truth

Without this internal delight in the truth the external defense is certain to crumble. It is not theological statements that preserve the truth so much as men filled with the Spirit and wisdom, taught by God to follow the pattern of sound words and able to guard the good deposit.

For some churches and denominations the vibrant confessional testimony of their forefathers in the faith became no more than a museum piece, a relic that gave witness to what was once believed before the church moved on with the times. The truth remained the truth, even if you were told to look at it behind a glass case, but long gone was the atmosphere of orthodoxy.

John Owen both expressed and embodied the conviction that an external, objective, truth and an internal, subjective, experiential grasp of that truth was necessary for the survival of orthodoxy:
This I am compelled to say, that unless the Lord, in his infinite mercy, lay an awe upon the hearts of men, to keep them in some captivity to the simplicity and mystery of the gospel who now strive every day to exceed one another in novel opinions and philosophical apprehensions of the things of God, I cannot but fear that this soul-destroying abomination will one day break in as a flood upon us.
(Vindicae Evangelicae, p. 42)


Wes White said...

Martin, is this your work or from someone else? I couldn't tell from the post. In either case, it's fantastic. Keep up the good work.

Martin Downes said...

Wes, this is my work, aside from the gem from Owen.